With September upon us, I look back on my childhood in reflection. September meant one thing to the children in my neighborhood — summer was rapidly drawing to a close.
If you had summer things that you wanted to do, then you knew the clock was ticking and school was starting. We always had one more pick-up ball game to play or a few more swims in the pool.
My neighborhood was comprised of your usual band of misfit kids. There were many brothers and sisters in our group, as well as plenty of lone wolves like myself. I am amazed as I often reminisce about how children from different backgrounds, different ages and different religions formed a well-oiled unit. We could establish a ball game, a game of tag, a bout of war, a sled ride or a bike ride in a matter of minutes. No one had a cellphone, and yet we always pulled off organizing things to do at a moment’s notice. Getting the group together to do things was half of the fun.
I don’t recall anyone getting a superexpensive gift and then having them flaunt it among others. We were happy for those getting a new bike. Those who did would share it with others without hesitation. It was almost like community property. The same held true with new sporting equipment or anything that children prize so much.
Those who had parents with limited incomes were as welcomed in our neighborhood as much as those who had parents who lived comfortably. We had no “rich” kids in our neighborhood. Looking back with much fondness, I can say that we were all extremely rich back then in our own special way. I think I can safely state that we all still have lingering memories that draw life interest as we age. I try to reflect on our neighborhood misadventures without smiling. I find that impossible.
I often wonder where life’s roads have taken the kids I grew up with. I still bump into a few members of the old gang in town, and a few more I’ve found in the ranks of Facebook. Most have scattered into the winds of life to build their worlds, while others completely fell off the radar. The sad thing is, those who vanished did so without a trace. It is very sad to consider that parts of your childhood puzzle will always remain missing.
I guess in our innocence of youth, we never paused for a single moment to consider that one day our childhoods would end. The friends down the street, next door and on the hill would no longer be there. Our tree houses would crumble, our trails through the woods would be reclaimed by vegetation, and the neighborhood as we knew it would change forever. One day things would never be the same. That one day seemed to happen overnight.
I guess that clinging to your youth is something that most people do. Things were just so different then. The biggest concerns we had were being home in time to eat or to get ready for bed. I kept my mom in great shape by always having her search the neighborhood for me.
Truthfully, I had wonderful role models as parents. Children in our neighborhood seemed to share parents, too.
When you did something wrong, you were reprimanded by parents other than your own if your parents were not close by. I think it was expected by most parents that, when your child was at their house, then the parent at that house was to be respected and had total say over situations. More complicated situations were discussed among parents by telephone and, more often, by face-to-face visits.
“It takes a village to raise a child” could not have been more true than in our neighborhood. Parents were always there to guide children, to give advice and just to spend time with us. Life lessons were learned at home and in the homes of others. We had many positive influences and role models to follow.
The elderly in our neighborhood always had time to visit with us, and we made time for them. We were a close-knit community inside the city. We watched out for everyone’s welfare, as they did for ours. Unlike today, you knew almost every neighbor well. Looking back, it seems surreal to an extent. It was almost like growing up on a 1960s-something television show.
We were blessed to have so many great times together. Even though we seldom, if ever, see each other, I have to believe that each of us is stored in each other’s memories and in each other’s hearts. The physical youth is long past, but we are forever young in our memories. I preserve my youth in stories for my children and grandchildren. I know some details are omitted, but they deserve at least a sampling of what my childhood meant to me and how important lifelong friends are.
Be well, my brothers, sisters and parents from the old neighborhood. I keep a little piece of each of you with me. I can only hope that I touched each of you as deeply as you touched me. You are all a part of Hick Finn forever.